Growing up on the West Coast, it’s pretty common for our family to travel to California to see grandparents, other family members, and friends. At 9 ½ and 7, our kids are pretty travel savvy but when they were younger, I’d get a lot of travel advice from fellow parents like “just give them a little over the counter medicine,” some would say. “It acts like a sedative and makes them sleep.”
Disclosure: I received compensation for this post as part of the CHPA OTC Safety Ambassador Program. All the opinions reflected here are my own.
For some, desperate times call for desperate measures. While we’ve all been there on a long trip, 18% of moms shared that they medicate their kids before traveling, making this confession #7 among Parenting’s Top Ten Secret Mom Confessions. But should you really medicate your child? While you want to make your kids feel better when they’re sick, there are lots of other ways to survive a trip that don’t involve sedation.
Last year we traveled to China, Japan, and Hong Kong. Our direct flight to Beijing from Washington, D.C. was over 14 hours. And we survived. How did we do it?
Here are 7 ways to keep a kid entertained on a long flight that don’t involve meds:
1. Plug in. While I’m usually a fan of unplugging in favor of family time and ensuring that we balance our screen time, I’m the first to admit that they sky’s the limit in terms of screen time when we travel. Bring kid-friendly headphones with volume control and a stack of DVDs or digital copies of movies on your laptop or tablet. Load up that smartphone or tablet with some new apps.When the battery fails, either hope that your plane has outlets, pack an external charger, or hand over your smartphone. Trust me. Everyone will be happier.
2. Pack snacks. When we flew to China last summer, I had an unbelievable amount of food. We packed non-perishables like trail mix, vacuum packed salami, mac and cheese packets that could be made with boiled water in a Styrofoam cup, and Laughing Cow cheese wedges and crackers because I worried our kids would be hungry at some strange time of the day or night with no access to food. While plane food can be novel for kids, it can also be a nightmare for picky eaters. Take them grocery shopping with you to make sure you’re packing some portable favorites that you know your kids will eat. Need suggestions? Cool Mom Picks can help!
3. Splurge on new art supplies. The more novel the art supplies, the better. New crayons, colored pencils, or fat and skinny markers are always more fun than the old ones at home. Depending on the age of your child, blank journals, coloring books, sticker books, and Mad Libs are also huge hits. Bring along glue sticks too.
4. Make art out of found objects. The seat back pocket is a treasure trove of items other than gross tissues and wrappers that live in the depths. Get that glue stick ready and use the SkyMall Catalog and in-flight magazine to create a torn paper collage. Have a clean barf bag? Turn it into a puppet! Both are fabulous gifts if you’re meeting family members when you land.
5. Post Its. Wallpaper the tray table, make a collage on the window, make a flip book, or cover up the faces in the in-flight magazine and draw silly faces instead. The possibilities for Post-Its are endless!
6. Trade. Because the grass is always greener across the aisle or a few rows back, ask the family sitting nearby if they want to trade books or DVDs. Again, novelty is key and even if they have the same DVD that your kids left at home, chances are your kids might want to watch it because it’s not theirs.
7. Exercise patience and flexibility. Traveling with kids always comes with a whole host of challenges that are easier to deal with when taking a deep breath and remembering to be patient and flexible.
Remember, as a parent or caregiver, you are in charge of your child’s health. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) options available to help make your child feel better when he or she is sick, but be careful to only use a medicine that treats your child’s specific symptoms. OTCs are real medicines and should only be given to your child according to the label instructions. Never use cough, cold, or allergy medicines to sedate your child. For more information on giving medicine to kids safely, visit OTC Safety.